Doctrines of Jainism and Buddhism

Doctrines of Jainism and Buddhism


Vardhaman Mahavira is regarded as the founder of Jainism.

He was born in 599 BC near Vaishali in Bihar. He was twenty-fourth and the last Tirthankara of Jainism.

Jainism believed that the main goal of human life is the purification of soul and attainment of nirvana, which means freedom from birth and death. This can be achieved not through rituals and sacrifices but by pursuance of triratna and panchamahavrata.

Triratna or three jewels are right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct, which can lead to liberation.

Right conduct means observance of five great vows:

[1] ahimsa (do not commit violence)

[2] satya vachana (do not speak a lie)

[3] asteya (do not steal)

[4] brahmacharya (do not indulge in the sexual act)

[5] aparigraha (do not acquire property)

Householders were expected to observe a milder form of the practice of these virtues called anuvrata (small vows) in comparison to the monks.

The most distinguishing feature of Jainism was the concept of anekantavada or syadavada. It means that the truth can be viewed from aneka or various angels.

Another important feature of Jainism was its emphasis on the extreme form of penance, austerity, and strict non-violence.

Perhaps the emphasis on strict discipline was one of the reasons why it could not attract the masses in large number.

Mahavira used Prakrit language to spread his message.

However, just like other religions, Jainism also could not remain united for very long and later divided into two sects called the Digambara (who remain naked) and Svetambara (who wear white clothes).



The founder of Buddhism was Gautama Buddha, who was born in 566 BC at Lumbini, located in the foothills of Nepal.

One night he left his palace in search of truth and ultimately attained the true knowledge at Bodhgaya. He then began to be called Buddha or the enlightened one.

He delivered his first sermon at Sarnatha near Varanasi. This event is known as dharma-chakra-pravartana (turning of the wheel of law).

He also established his sangha here.

He died at the age of 80 in 486 B.C. at Kusinara or Kusinagar near Gorakhpur in eastern UP.

Buddha asked his followers to avoid the two extremes of indulgence in worldly pleasure and the practice of strict abstinence and asceticism. This philosophy of madhyama marga or the Middle Path is reflected in all the issues related to Buddhism.

The main teachings of Buddhism are encapsulated in the basic concept of four noble truths or arya satya and eightfold path or astangika marga.

The first noble truth, Buddha said that suffering (dukkha) is the essence of the world and is like an ocean of miseries.

The second noble truth is dukkha samudya i.e. every suffering has a cause.

The third noble truth is dukkha nirodha i.e. suffering could be extinguished.

The fourth noble truth is dukkha nirodha gamini pratipada i.e. there is a path leading to the extinction of dukkha.

He said that everything in this world like birth, old age and death leads to suffering. If one wants to get rid of suffering one has to conquer the desire. This removal of desire can be achieved through the eightfold path, these are:

[1] right faith

[2] right resolve

[3] right speech

[4] right action

[5] right living

[6] right effort

[7] right thought

[8] right self concentration

Buddha used the Pali language spoken by masses to propagate his teachings.

Buddha allowed lower varnas and women to join the sangha.

Four Buddhist councils organized over different periods played a significant role in the propagation of Buddhism.

In the fourth council during the reign of Kanishka, Buddhism split into two major sects called Hinayana and Mahayana.

Mahayana adopted Sanskrit as its language and started worshipping Buddha in the form of an idol, while Hinayana continued to follow Pali and treated Buddha as a guide.

Buddhism became weak by seventh century AD but the impact of Buddhism can be seen in all spheres of life in Indian history.

Buddhist scholars created many literary texts like Tripitaka, Milindapanho, Buddhacharita, etc.

Buddhism became an inspiration for the promotion of art and architecture, in the form of stupas, rock-cut caves, and paintings.

These can be noticed at Sanchi, Bharhut, Amravati, Ajanta, etc.

Buddhism inspired Gandhara and Mathura schools of art.

Buddhism by opening its door to all the classes challenged the superiority of Brahmanism and gave a better social position to lower castes.

Also Read:

Indian History Questions Solved

Buddhism notes for UPSC

Jainism Notes for UPSC